By Joanna Weekes
Young workers are the most at risk in the workplace, with consistently more work-related injuries and hospitalisation than any other age group. This is not only due to their inexperience but also due to a common tendency for young workers to be reluctant to voice their concerns.
Your duty of care under health and safety legislation includes the need to ensure that all your workers are kept safe and that risks are minimised and eliminated where possible.
As part of a lack of experience, young workers might be at greater risk in the workplace due to:
- not having received proper or sufficient training;
- attempting to perform tasks beyond their skill set or ability;
- lacking the experience, knowledge and skills to fully estimate the risks associated with tasks they are performing;
- unable to minimise dangers to protect themselves or their co-workers from injury; or
- being less willing to ask questions or raise concerns.
Case Law: Young worker seriously injured due to lack of training
Here’s an example of a case where a young worker was seriously injured after attempting to complete a work task they had not received proper training in:
In Inspector Barber v Tegra Australia Pty Ltd (2012), a young worker almost died after inhaling toxic fumes at a concrete manufacturing business when a high volume of cement powder was accidently released.
The worker was almost killed when he inhaled the cement powder, which permanently reduced his lung capacity to 35%. No mask or other breathing equipment was being used at the time. Since the incident, the worker has had serious health complications, including a heart attack.
The Court confirmed that the accidental release of cement was foreseeable and the risk should have been managed by ensuring personal protective equipment was worn by all staff on site. The business also failed to provide training on what to do in the case of this type of emergency. 5 measures to reduce or eliminate the risk factors for young workers
To limit risks to young workers, you must:
- carry out a safety induction for all new workers;
- provide adequate training and instruction;
- implement appropriate health and safety procedures;
- promote a culture of safety in the workplace; and
- ensure that young workers are adequately supervised when performing dangerous tasks.
Make sure that young workers have demonstrated competence in the relevant work tasks before they commence work. Competence-based learning ensures that the young worker understands how to perform the task.
Health & Safety Bulletin